GREENSBORO — With all the buzz in the Triad and North Carolina about the arrival of new high-tech manufacturing plants, Smith High School’s Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering career academy is getting some extra attention.

Earlier this month, Gov. Roy Cooper came through for a tour. And on Thursday, leaders from South Africa and Ireland, who are working to create manufacturing industry and education partnerships in their countries, stopped by as part of a larger study trip.

Created in 2019, Smith currently has the district’s only advanced manufacturing and engineering career academy. District leaders are now working to open another at Southeast High School, which is near the site of the new Toyota battery plant.

Students apply in eighth-grade to start the program as ninth-graders. If they choose to stick it out, they have the opportunity to continue the program through the end of high school.

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Smith sophomore Daniel Blas, who hopes to become a mechanic, said that the biggest advice he would give to anyone starting an advanced manufacturing and engineering program like the one at Smith is to “keep the hands-on work consistent.”

“It gives you the experience in practice to be able to see a problem, identify what possible solutions can be and find the best one,” he explained. “That way you can really show off how your ideas can be made, you know? That’s what I like about this kind of stuff.”

Blas said he’s taking two classes for the academy, one in engineering and another in advanced manufacturing. In advanced manufacturing, students are learning problem-solving skills as well as how to manufacture objects. They have made self-propelling cars and just two weeks ago built a hydraulic arm, he said.

Senior Myia Walker, who was wearing 3-D printed earrings made by a classmate, got the chance to show guests the various model-sized bridge structures academy students had created, with an eye toward figuring out what could bear the most weight. Walker, who wants to be a chemical engineer, said she thinks teamwork is another key component that any similar program should emphasize.

Advanced Manufacturing teacher William Reece said he’d love to see more instructors recruited at Smith in order to grow the program, which has roughly 80 students now.

Smith is the first high school in Guilford County partnered with The North Carolina Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, which brought the international guests to GTCC and Smith this week. The collaboration started in 2023 and was finalized earlier this year with Toyota being one of the key industry partners.

A big focus is to help high school graduates gain employment experience with manufacturers while completing an associates degree. According to Dennis Parker, a consultant with Toyota North American Regional Talent Development, with Smith there is an ongoing relationship that goes beyond just, say, handing out brochures at a career fair.

Instead, he said, the school lets them actually engage and interact with teachers, counselors and students. They want to encourage students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math as well as advanced manufacturing careers.

In the past, Parker said industry has mostly waited for graduates rather than encouraging talent and offer support to those who are nurturing it.

That, he said, is what they are hoping to do differently here in Guilford County — starting with Smith.



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